Brothers and sisters:
A couple of months ago I was sitting in our repair department safety meeting before going into the company safety meeting and I looked around at the people gathered in the room. The mechanics sat on one side of the desk and the apprentices on the other. While our boss rattled off data points on performance versus time and BDP and GPS and blah, blah, blah, I wondered where all the old-timers went.
When I started at Millar and into the Schindler merger I worked service with the likes of Ron Waleri, Gene Steiner, Dave Zapeda, John Ward, Mark Mayo and Big Bill Sellers. When I worked as a floating maintenance helper I helped almost every Millar/Schindler maintenance man in Cleveland. If there was one I missed then it was due to the superintendent not grabbing me in time to get me out to them before they quit or retired. I grew to appreciate them all for their unique approaches to their job and the skills they had that kept their customers happy and equipment running. From some I learned what not to do which can be an even more important lesson than what to do in any given situation.
A couple of years ago I was talking with two other young mechanics who also worked as helpers with one of the service mechanics I helped for a period. We all said that when we ran into a tough task we would stop and say “what would he do” or admonish ourselves with “that’s not how he would have done it.” All three of us laughed because we knew the standard and it was set very high and we all hoped to live up to it.
So… Where are all the old timers?
On April 19th Local 17 held its annual Retiree’s Dinner at Frank Sterel’s Slovenian Restaurant. In between my duties of taking photos for the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, and catching up with those retirees and active members I see only this one time a year, I took a count of those in attendance that I had the honor to work with even for a short period of time as a helper and those that helped me as a mechanic. I stopped counting at 15.
All of them had stories to tell, memories to stir and laughs to be shared.
Drifting back to the meeting, it was not so much a hit from an I-beam but a subtle nudge from above that said we had become the old-timers. We were the ones that the apprentices across from us would be looking up to and referencing for the rest of their careers just like those I worked with as a helper. It was an awesome and sobering thought and I think every day about living up to the standard that those before us set.
I do not always know whether I measure up, but when I leave this trade, by whatever means it happens, my most sincere hope is that I will make a positive impact and leave it better than when I found it.
Till next month…
Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.